8 Blogging Tips: Everything I Did Wrong

IMG_2566.JPG(Left to right: Liza, Zack, Zuzzy, and yours truly. Our heads almost look like a bar graph showing the early stages of a compound growth curve.)

What did I just get myself into?

Ever ask yourself that? I do—all the time. If I find something interesting, my hand shoots up to volunteer before the question of knowledge or capacity ever crosses my mind. I agreed to team up with my wife to give a talk about relationships to college students next month (spoiler alert: I’m clueless about relationships). I also agreed to give a 2.5 hour money seminar next year (2.5 hours?!). Of course I said yes to the stress. What did I just get myself into?

I asked myself that plenty of times during months 1 and 2 of blogging. Then months 3 and 4 rolled around and something happened.

(Actually, it’s been 3.6 months—I’m rounding up—but I digress.)

Blogging has been a hike through the woods. Intimidating at times, sure, but if you look around there’s beauty you wouldn’t have experienced if you didn’t start walking. Here are my tips, 4 months in.

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8 Tips to Avoid Everything I Did Wrong

“I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man.” – Jay-Z

I write this from the perspective of someone who is trying to build their blog as a business, rather than a blogger who keeps it more as a diary or hobby. I previously wrote about how JMC is part of a strategy to build an eCommerce platform. Today, I’ll go through lessons I’ve learned so you can avoid my mistakes. As you will see, I made decisions early on that makes it harder for JMC to grow.

  1. Be Social. I spent my adult life trying to avoid social media, so now that I’m on Facebook and Pinterest, I see what I’ve been missing out on. Facebook is our biggest feeder—plus, you know, it’s fun to read updates. And it’s thrilling when someone on Pinterest pins your post. You probably have a more robust and engaged social media presence than I do, having built it over years. I just started, and made it harder for myself because…
  2. Anonymity is a Steep Hill. If you’re open to using your real name and posting pictures of yourself, you leverage one of your strongest assets—trust. You can take the trust people already have with you and make yourself into a brand. Like Jay-Z’s quote: you yourself are the business.* I don’t want to be a brand—I want JMC to be the brand. I want to be public with my thoughts but private with my family (given the nature of my posts). If you’re like me and want to write under a pseudonym, it’s going to be harder to build readership and social media friends. It’s been done, however. Sam over at Financial Samurai is my inspiration for overcoming anonymity with good content. Of course, there’s pros and cons to each choice, but for me it’s worth it. A pseudonym shouldn’t prevent you from building a…
  3. Network. Just like in the real world, networking is crucial. I haven’t attended any blogger summits (I plan to!), but it’s important to reach out to other bloggers for tips, questions, guest posts, etc. I’ve found them by joining Facebook support groups. In general, I’ve found the blogging community to be super supportive. Bloggers like the sister duo of Joleisa have gone above and beyond to help me, especially with Pinterest. (Please show them some love by checking out their site!)  But just like in real life…
  4. Authenticity is Important. I’ve found the bloggers I’ve reached out to and read frequently to be genuine, and I think that’s part of their success. You can tell they really love what they’re writing about—if they weren’t writing about it, they’d be thinking about it or doing it anyway. Their writing voice reflects this enthusiasm. Readers can tell when someone doesn’t love what they write about. Now, you can make it easier on yourself if you’re interested in something that’s…IMG_2479.JPG
  5. Niche. They say you want to swim in a blue ocean and avoid a red ocean. Oceans become red when they’re bloody from competition, meaning you better be prepared to swim faster and smarter if you’re blogging in a red ocean. This is another way to say that you want to monopolize your category. Money may be green, but it’s a crimson blogging ocean. So is the parenting category. If only I were interested in korfball, I could…
  6. Be the Expert. I am not the New York Times or Economist, but they aren’t me, either (not that they’d want to be). Sure, I’d love to write New Yorker worthy articles or do investigative journalism, but they give a reporter’s perspective. You write from the perspective of someone who actually does what you’re writing about. When people want investigative journalism or a wide breadth of topics, they’ll read the Times. When they want the perspective of real people writing from experience on the topics that interest them, they go to blog experts. I initially wanted to cover a lot of different topics, but now I realize that narrow-topic is not the same as narrow-minded. Regardless of your writing, don’t forget to…
  7. Be Visual. Blogging may be about words, but arresting pictures draw me in. I didn’t really appreciate this at first—my first blog posts were not visually all that alluring outside of Douglas’s pictures. But I just found a fun, free, amazing app called Studio Design that has helped me really upgrade my photo game (How about that fancy “Blogging Tips” photo, eh? eh? No? Yes? … well, leave your feedback in the comments. I’m still learning!). You want to make it a good reading experience, and photos placed throughout help break up the words and keep the flow interesting. Overall though, it’s important to…
  8. Keep Going and Have Fun: As I mentioned, I was struggling the first 2 months. I wasn’t having much fun, partly due to adding a lot of hours to a week already bursting at the seams, and partly because I was learning something very uncomfortable. Then, in month 3 I went down to 2 posts a week which helped significantly. And I got better at Facebook and Pinterest (still not very good). So in month 3, I started getting in a rhythm and building upon the knowledge I learned in the previous months. Along the way, I have wonderful interaction with readers and a great time writing. It’s gotten really fun—and I’m continuing to make myself uncomfortable by learning—but if I didn’t fight past the early stumbles, I would have never gotten to experience it.

October Review

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Stats

  • Pageviews: 1154 (vs 1264 the prior month)
  • Giving: $0 (0% to $1,000,000 goal)

Oh-for-three on making money to give. On purpose. We’re still early stage and I’m not going to rush into it.

Page views are down overall, but considering that I went from 3 posts a week to 2, pageviews actually grew. And our subscription keeps growing. Thank you, readers!

What We Did Well

  • I think a strength of ours is to have good content. We start our posts with a thesis. Perhaps to our detriment, we don’t try to spot trends. We write what we know and try to be helpful, which means every post is a fresh take built from the ground up.
  • I’m making more connections with other bloggers! I love the blogging community.
  • Learning to use Pinterest
  • joined Instagram

What We Can Do Better

  • Marketing. We’re not great at this yet. You can have okay content and be successful if you market well. You can have great content and fail if you don’t market well.
  • Get serious about getting email subscribers. Up until now we’ve had pretty good organic growth, but I’d like to see even more growth.

Previous Goals:

  • Have Connor write a post: Achieved! (If you haven’t read it, it’s here.) She’s writing another one next week!
  • Spend an hour figuring out Pinterest: Achieved!
  • Write a guest post: Not achieved. But I did write one in early November, so… almost!
  • Submit a post to the Huffington Post: Not achieved. Maybe this month?
  • Dedicate at least 1 hour a week working on eCommerce: I’ve done more like 30 minutes a week, so… not achieved.
  • Batch my writing for the next 2 posts before I go on vacation to Greece: Achieved!
  • Implement Google Search Console: Not achieved.
  • Refinance my mortgage: Achieved!

Goals for November:

  • Get serious about growing subscribers by implementing a “sign up” plug in
  • Write a guest post (perhaps I should make that two, since I’ve already done one?)
  • Spend an hour looking at different site redesign options
  • Learn about affiliated marketing. These would be products I do truly recommend and that you might find helpful. I know nothing about it, so my goal would be to sign up for a course. Let’s turn that giving zero into…not zero!

*Jay-Z is not his real name, of course. But the world knows him by his pseudonym. Unless you’ve got hit records under your pseudonym, the world probably knows you by your real name, so use it if you don’t want to start from zero and don’t care about anonymity. 

Connect with JMC!

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11 Comments

  • eastcoastapproach November 17, 2016 at 2:35 pm

    Wonderful post! I love how you listed out your goals. I’m going to do the same. Great idea!

    Reply
    • justmakingcentscom November 17, 2016 at 5:12 pm

      Thank you! It keeps me accountable. Half of the time I’m motivated to do it because I don’t want to report that I didn’t meet any goals!

      Looking forward to seeing your goals!

      Reply
  • amileinmyshoes November 17, 2016 at 2:59 pm

    Good post. I’ll have to try that fancy graphics app. I’ve actually cut down on my visuals on my pages, but I do agree – they make it more visually appealing. Blogging networks can be good for traffic as well. Mumsnet is a good one to join. I love pinterest, but the pinit button didn’t work with chrome the last time I tried 🙁

    Reply
    • justmakingcentscom November 17, 2016 at 5:16 pm

      It’s great. I do get a little carried away. Connor had to tell me that my original picture looked tacky!

      I do just about everything from my phone, but kept bugging Joleisa (whom I met through the blogger network on Facebook) for help! If you find me on Pinterest, I can pin your posts!

      Reply
  • joleisa November 17, 2016 at 5:40 pm

    Really love your writing and love that you have your head screwed on, lol. I predict that you will be a major blogger in months! Keep at it. All the best.

    Reply
    • justmakingcentscom November 17, 2016 at 5:43 pm

      You’re too kind! Looking forward to guest posting on your blog. Have a great night

      …and may you be granted the gift of prophecy!

      Reply
  • Lauren Fortenberry November 17, 2016 at 9:26 pm

    Allow me to offer 8 things I think JustMakingCents is doing right:

    1. You include yourself – maybe not in name or direct visual, but you’re there. This makes your blog relatable, even if you choose – like myself – to protect your personal space.

    2. You encourage other bloggers. I like how you use your networking expertise from the business world to build your blogging presence.

    3. Your visuals are stunning. It takes so much work for me to select one picture for each post – I cannot imagine including as many as you normally do (and doing it so well).

    4. You don’t let competition drive your blog in an unhealthy way. I don’t feel like you’re trying to out-pace my writing, and I like it when I feel I can run alongside another blogger.

    5. Perhaps I can only speak for myself here, but I love that you offer rare and incredibly deep insights into the financial world. Sure, most anyone can create interesting content, but you don’t fit into one of the saturated blogging markets like “stay-at-home daddy blogger” or a “not-I-but-Christ”.

    6. You always follow-up with those who comment on your blog. Again, your personal approach really sets you apart.

    7. You make it clear that you don’t live or die by your blog. When it performs well, you celebrate. When it performs below your expectations, you are doubly motivated.

    8. You make us laugh…and who else in the world can do that with money talk?

    Grateful for the ways your blog challenges and inspires me! Keep writing, JMC 🙂

    Reply
    • justmakingcentscom November 18, 2016 at 11:06 am

      Lauren! Goodness this was such an incredibly kind comment with such wonderful feedback that I am intoxicated with eight simultaneous reactions/feelings:
      1. Encouraged
      2. Energized
      3. Blessed
      4. Hopeful
      5. Appreciation
      6. Humbled
      7. Cheery
      8. Optimistic

      Have a great missions trip!

      Reply
  • Cyndy Nguyen November 18, 2016 at 12:59 am

    Who are you? Why did I add you? Lol! Keep it up buddy!

    Reply
    • justmakingcentscom November 18, 2016 at 11:11 am

      Why did you add me? Because with me, it’s subtraction by addition. (I have no idea what that means.)

      Thanks for commenting Cyndy! Are you going to start blogging?

      Reply
  • Why Waiting to Buy a House Pays Off – just making cents November 21, 2016 at 11:58 am

    […] how I mentioned in my last post why networking with other bloggers was so key?  I met Jen through a blogger support group on […]

    Reply

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